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The Constantia wine route, South Africa

The Constantia wine route has a lot going for it. First, itís very close to Cape Town, nestling on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain. The vineyards are surrounded by some pleasant, affluent suburbs Ė  this is the address in Cape Town Ė in easy striking distance of many of the tourist sights and with some smart dining options. Second, itís a manageable wine route, with just five estates: you donít have to sit their scratching your head wondering which ones to visit. Fourth, thereís the historical aspect: this is where wine was first made in South Africa. Finally, there ainít any duds: all five wineries make good wine.

Some history. Back in 1685 the cape settlementís first Governor, Simon van der Stel, was granted the Constantia estate. Van der Stel was a bit of a wheeler dealer and did very well for himself. When he resigned the governorship, he was succeeded by his son. Unfortunately, his son bent the rules too much and got into trouble, which resulted in confiscation of the Constantia estate in 1708, which was then split into three: Buitenverwachting, Groot Constantia and Klein Constantia. However, the current Klein Constantia is actually part of the Groot Constantia Estate that was partitioned off in 1823. Confusing?

Steenberg, which stands alone a short drive from the other four estates, has only a relatively recent history of wine grape growing. The 205 ha estate was purchased in 1990 by a large mining company who have renovated and developed it into a wine estate with luxury accommodation and a golf course. And, of course, six foot perimeter fencing with electrification. 

Over the space of a couple of days I visited all five. You could do all of them in one day, but the nice thing about Cape Town is that wine fits well into the context of a family holiday. The reports will be appearing here over the space of the next couple of weeks, beginning with Buitenverwachting.

See also: the wine anorak's guide to South African wine

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